What is this course about exactly? 
The course takes a cultural approach to the relationship between the US and Korea from the end of WWII to the present. This topic is usually considered in the domain of political science (especially international relations) or diplomatic history. But I am a specialist of literature and I'm sure that I am biased, but I find that looking at cultural texts that manifest and interrogate this topic can help us experience the subject more powerfully and get to the heart of the matter faster.   

The title of this course is catchy and topical. Did anything inspire the creation of this course?

I owe my good colleague in ALC, Prof. Juhn Ahn, for the catchy title of the course. Thank you, Juhn! I put this course together and taught it for the first time during Trump's presidency when US-North Korea relations were on a rollercoaster. After trading insults and rattling sabers, Kim Jung Un and Trump came very close to signing a deal that would have normalized the relations between North Korea and the US, and ended the Korean War once and for all. The deal fell through in 2019 and the division system in Korea has become more intractable than ever. Still, in significant ways, the Trump era marked the end of the world order that the US built and led starting with Truman. How, you might ask? Well, you'll just have to take the course to find out!   

What material are you most excited about to be teaching in this course and for students to read/watch? Why?

Fiction and film. So many fascinating works from Korea, the US, and China too! For example, a single battle of the Korean War became the subject of cinematic representation in three different films produced at different times in the US, China, and South Korea. What are the differences across these representations and why do they matter? Attending to the minute details of these texts can help us appreciate the stories people tell and why they tell them about events of national and international importance from multiple vantage points. 

Could you share your primary research interests and how they tie into this course?
I am in the process of writing a cultural history of US-Korea relations. It's a book that explores what America has signified to Koreans in the second half of the twentieth century, which I see as the period that saw the emergence of America's global power and this power reach the zenith--the dawn to high noon of America's century. So the course really reflects the subject of my research very well.

What is your favorite part about teaching a 200-level course like this?
I appreciate the opportunity to interact with a wide range of students from multiple majors within LSA and from across the campus.

Why do you think students should take this course?

Historically, this relationship between the US and Korea has been deeply asymmetrical. The asymmetry extends to knowledge production as well, such that here in America, we don't get too many chances within the existing educational curriculum to reflect on how constitutive the US-Korea relations in the post-WWII era have been to the creation of the version of America that we live in today. For example, few students know that the largest US military installation anywhere in the world outside of the US is Camp Humphreys in South Korea. Shouldn't we know that fact and know something about why that is? How have Koreans understood the relationship that we spend so little time thinking about in America? Should we care that to South Koreans, for decades, "we were more than a friend... we were the friend" (Gregory Henderson)? If these questions resonate with you, you should consider taking the course. 

Finally, is there anything else you want to share about this course or your teaching style?

The course format is lecture/section, but I still like to hear from the students. In lecture, I ask a lot of questions, and they are not at all rhetorical. It's my way of encouraging students to take this history personally so that they can care about what they learn. What would be the point of teaching this class otherwise?

If you have any questions about this course, please reach out to Professor Ryu or the curriculum coordinator at alc-curriculumassistant@umich.edu. More information on ASIAN 277 can be found here.